We're increasingly using laptops in more exposed places, but the average laptop isn't designed to be used in these environments, such as when it's raining or dusty. However, recently we've seen manufacturers releasing devices better suited to extreme conditions.
The Hi-Grade Endura R5500 (£899 inc. VAT) has been designed as such a laptop, but it's worth pointing out that it isn't intended to go head to head with Panasonic's Toughbook - if you're truly after a machine for all conditions, you need a ToughBook. The Endura is aimed at those who merely need something a little sturdierer for everyday use.
To this end, you'll find the case is made from thick magnesium alloy. It isn't water- or dust-proof, as there is a fan located on the base and none of the ports are sealed. However, the keyboard will repel liquid should you accidently spill any on it.
The whole construction is pleasing to the touch. While it weighs in at 3.3kg, the compromise in weight isn't too bad, as this feels like a machine you won't mind carrying around with you.
The corners have been coated with rubber, helping it withstand impact. However, rubber doesn't disperse energy effectively, so while the casing will withstand the fall, we're not too sure how the internal components will stand up to repeated drops.
When it came to performance, you won't find this system using low voltage components. Powered by Intel's latest Core 2 Duo technology, this is a powerhouse of a portable - especially as Hi-Grade has fitted it with 2048MB of memory.
We were impressed with the performance on offer, with the laptop achieving a MobileMark 2007 score of 203 in High Performance mode. There is no obvious knock-on effect on battery life, as the laptop ran for 236 minutes in this mode. When running in Power Saver mode, performance dropped considerably, but the pay-off was an extra 30 minutes of battery life.
Hi-Grade has kept the main body of the machine free from clutter, with only the power switch and Wi-Fi on/off switch sitting above the keyboard. This in turn sits in the centre of the main body and feels reassuringly solid.
The keys are firmly mounted and we found it an incredibly comfortable keyboard to use. The most frustarting thing about the Endura was the power cable, as it wasn't a tight fit and would fall out whenever we moved the machine more than a few inches.
Slight niggles aside, we enjoyed using the Hi-Grade Endura R5500. It's isn't a laptop suited to everyone, but those who need something a little more robust will appreciate it.